“Don’t worry, you can have it. I’ve eaten my own before you came in.” We knew that mummy wasn’t telling the truth. She always did that whenever the food was too small for the three of us. We wouldn’t mind sharing that little food with her but she would rather sleep without dinner than have us eat without being satisfied.
“I’ll be back soon. Make sure you take care of your brother.” With those words, my mother left for the farm. She had been hired by Àlàbí’s father to do some harvesting on his farmland. She didn’t get home until noon. She had bought the ingredients that she would use to cook so that we could eat our first meal of the day but she didn’t find us at home. It was unlike us, so she set out to find us. As she was about to go out of the room, she heard some noise from outside. She rushed out and found my younger brother on John’s broad back. She quickly bent to show her back for Tobi to be put on it. She could not afford the service of Ìyá Alágbo, so my mother had mastered the art of different kinds of treatments over the years. She usually nursed and cared for us whenever we got injured or sick.
Within thirty minutes, the snake poison was neutralised and my brother fell asleep. The different herbal mixtures that she applied must have been effective.
“Why did you go to into the bush?” She could now ask. Since Tobi was asleep, I was left to answer the question that was meant for both of us. “Ee…ee…mm”, I stammered. My mother wasn’t harsh but my guilt wouldn’t let my words flow. She looked on without saying a word. I knew that face. She wanted me to explain clearly.
“We went to look for snails. You wouldn’t eat out of the cheese that you bought at every meal, so we wanted to do something that’d make you have something on your food as well.” Tears rolled down my mother’s cheeks and I couldn’t but join her. We cried together. She must have felt bad for not being able to protect us. She kept saying “I’m sorry” and that made me sadder. I always wished that she would stop blaming herself for our situation; that she would share little of the burden with us; and that she would allow us to catch some snails to support her efforts to get us cheese since she couldn’t afford to buy more cheese or the least expensive fish.
“Aunty Princess…Tobi…Aunty Princess…Tobi”, Labisi, our landlord’s daughter, who was about the same age as Tobi, called out to us. We rushed out to meet her. “Your mother fell while carrying pọnpọń in the house under construction beside Bàbá Olomi’s house.”, she said, panting. She must have run too fast. We ran as fast as our legs could carry us. My mother was on the floor. She started to cry when she sighted us. Apparently, she had gone there to earn extra money so that she could afford to buy more cheese that would be enough for the three of us. She didn’t want us to consider going into the bush in search of snails anymore. We joined her on the floor and hugged her while we all cried.
A man, who must have heard when my mother explained what took her to the site, came close to us and said, “Madam, take this and buy as many fish or meat as you want and feed your children.” It was like a miracle. We looked at the money and looked back up to where the man had stood but he was gone. Maybe he disappeared or he walked very fast. “Irọ́ ni oo”, my mother said with great surprise. We quickly looked back at her to see what was going on. The naira notes that she was holding amounted to fifty thousand naira. If she worked on the farm for two years, she wouldn’t be able to realise that much money. We quickly wiped our tears. An angel had come to help us, so we had to rejoice.
“Mummy, you can now start your business. It’s your dream to start one and stop going to the farm.” I said while jumping up.
“Yes, and you can now eat cheese when you eat.”, Tobi joyfully added.
“We may now eat fish and meat. Enough of cheese, my babies.” It was the first time in many months that my mother would smile at us.
I just noticed that my mother was more beautiful than she had always looked.